Tuesday, January 5, 2010

HT Great Descriptions of Eye Color

Here at Obsidianbookshelf.com, I love descriptions of eye color. Here are some of my favorites, organized alphabetically by title of the fiction in which they appear. I'll add more as I run across them. I didn't cite ebook page numbers because they vary depending upon what you're using to view the ebook.

A note on the advice to be found here. It is simply information on techniques that have worked for one published author (me). Only you can decide if my information will be helpful or not helpful to you.

For example, I point out clichés to avoid, and you can decide if you want to use them as they are, avoid them, or improve the terms with additional description. I personally love the cliché "flashing eyes," even though I know it is a cliche. I will go on using it in my writing.

Improving as a writer is all about experimenting. The only "ironclad rules" in writing fiction are the laws of physics and the principles of grammar, and even those can be bent, if you know what you're doing.

Always by Nicola Griffith:
p.34 "She felt my gaze and looked up. Grey-blue eyes, soft as dove feathers."

Bastards and Pretty Boys by K. Z. Snow
(ebook - not sure of page number)
"I noticed the intricate facets of his irises, like a luminous ivory and jade mosaic; the sweep and thickness of his jet-black lashes ..."

Blue Fire by Z. A. Maxfield:
(ebook - not sure of page numbers)
"… blue of his eyes … a clean and glacial blue that they tended to reflect any color around them and in different light looked like different eyes entirely."

And "…your eyes are so pure and clear a blue they remind me of ice chips."

In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming:
p.3 "Her eyes were the only exceptional thing about her, true hazel, like granite seen under green water."

p.161 "His eyes were Fourth-of-July blue, high and bright with the snap of a flag in the wind."

Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey:
p.17 "My eyes … were that color the poets call bistre, a deep and lustrous darkness, like a forest pool under the shade of ancient oaks."

Lovers and Other Strangers by Josh Lanyon:
(ebook - not sure of page number)
"His eyes were a shade of brown-black that Finn had never managed to determine; he remembered reading in one of the books that his grandfather had illustrated about a pirate with 'sparkling black cherry eyes,' and he'd always thought that perfectly described Con's eyes – although the wicked laughing eyes were at odds with a face as elegantly and distantly beautiful as the saint in a Renaissance painting."

The Privilege of the Sword (p.101) by Ellen Kushner:
p.101 "His eyes were unusual: blue, almost violet, like the heart of a candleflame."

The Protector by N. L. Gassert:
p.152 "Mason blinked and focused on ... [Soren's] eyes looking up at him. Under golden lashes the green was a brilliant halo around the dilated pupils. That wasn't fear looking up at him. It was arousal."

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh:
p.4 "She had the night-sky eyes of a cardinal Psy – an endless field of black scattered with pinpricks of cold white fire."

Willow Bend by Ally Blue:
p.16 "Eyes so pale blue they were almost white, fringed with lashes like black lace." Thanks to Tam for this quote!

The Yearly Scientifiction Colloquium (p.16) by Eric Del Carlo in Like Clockwork: Steampunk Erotica, edited by J. Blackmore.
(ebook - not sure of page number)
"… eyes of exquisite blue flecked with mineral sparkles."

Note: There is more! Because the website traffic is so high on these "how to write" articles, I have expanded two of them from the roughly 2,000 words per article that you see on the website/blog to 15,000 words each. I am offering them as Kindle documents on Amazon, if you are interested. Here are the links if you would like to have a look and download a free sample.

How to Write Descriptions of Eyes and Faces
(Just so you know, this 15,000-word book contains the 3,651-word Eye Color list from my website plus the 1,731-word article How to Describe Eyes, also from my website. The other 9, 618 words in the book are all-new material.)

How to Write Descriptions of Hair and Skin
(Just so you know, this 14,900 word book contains the 2,000-word article HT Describe Hair plus the 600-word Hair Color list from my website. The other 12,300 words in the book are all-new material.)

Do you not own a Kindle? No problem. You can get a free Kindle app to read Kindle books on your reader of choice, and it is very easy to install. You click the link for the app you want and it practically installs itself. Believe me, if I could do it, anyone can. With the free app, you can read Kindle books on your computer (PC or Mac), iPod, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, Android, and Windows Phone 7. Here is the link to all the Kindle reading apps available: all FREE Kindle reading apps located here.

Copyright © Obsidian Bookshelf. I don't allow my content to be copied and reposted in full. You may use an excerpt (a few sentences) with a return link, but not the entire post.


  1. Such great descriptions ... those are really great. How did you find those quotes? Did you remember them specifically? Or just that certain books had great eye colors?

  2. Huh. I never really thought about it before. I guess it's not something that sticks out for me. Although this line from Ally Blue's Willow Bend always struck me and I'd love to meet someone with eyes like this just to see what they look like.

    P. 16: Eyes so pale blue they were almost white, fringed with lashes like black lace.

    I'm not big on lots of description and not too fancy of words. LOL I like to let my imagination do some of the work.

  3. Hi, Kassa and Tam! Thanks for the comments.

    Kassa, would you believe that I remembered them specifically? My memory isn't so fabulous that I managed to recall the page number as well, but I remembered the basic description + book and just paged through the books until I found them again.

    Tam, whoa, that's a gorgeous quotation from Ally Blue's novel! I'm going to add it. Thank you!

    And what you said here I find fascinating:

    I'm not big on lots of description and not too fancy of words. LOL I like to let my imagination do some of the work.

    I tend to agree with you. I lean much more in that direction myself. Different genres have different expectations, and what you just said is the norm for literary fiction and mystery fiction and science fiction. The readers for that type of fiction actually get irritated if we writers interfere with their imagination by forcing characters' physical description on them!

    I grew up reading science fiction and then mysteries later on, and one of the hardest things I've had to adjust to in writing m/m romance is the romance genre requirement for LOTS of physical description of the characters. I have a friend who got a romance fiction rejected by an editor simply because she didn't have enough physical description of her characters.

  4. "I have a friend who got a romance fiction rejected by an editor simply because she didn't have enough physical description of her characters."

    Seriously? Wow. Maybe I do come from it from the other side then. But I have read books where it describes the body from top to bottom and I feel a bit like Dr. Frankenstein trying to put together individual pictures of his feet, thights, abs, arms, chest, neck, face, hair, eyes, etc. all together to get one whole person. I'd much rather read "tall athletic blonde with long hair and green eyes". "I" know what atheletic means to me, to you it might be something else but don't force me to visualize the size of his bicep or his calf.

  5. Seriously? Wow. Yes, I was shocked to hear it, myself!

    Dr. Frankenstein, ha, ha! I know what you mean. And I know I'm not the only one who reads a great novel where the characters aren't described so I build them up in my imagination, and then I'm never all that pleased when the characters get cast for a movie.

    Case in point: Gone Baby Gone by Dennis Lehane. My husband and I both read the book and then we sat there in shock as we watched the first five minutes of the DVD.

    The actor who played Patrick Kenzie made the character seem far younger than I had imagined and kind of stupid or like a "thug" as my husband said. We hadn't pictured Kenzie like that at all.

    The actress who played Angie Gennaro looked, well, Irish, and she was supposed to be a smokin' hot Italian babe (in one of the Lehane books, she gets some leverage from the fact that she's the granddaughter of a Mafia crime boss). Anyway, my husband and I just couldn't continue watching the DVD. It was just too weird.

    The thing that really throws me is when I get no description for a long time in a fiction, and suddenly I get something specific. For example, in one m/m story I read about 20 pages under the usual assumption that we readers make that the character was my own race (white) and then found out -- whoa! -- he's actually black! I had to start over again and re-read those 20 pages with my new image of him in mind.

  6. Hmm. You and I are just having a conversation here today. LOL

    I do like to know race. I hate when one character on the cover of the book is clearly black or Asian but they NEVER describe either character in the book so it totally throws me off. I don't know which is which and it bugs me. Don't make a big deal out of the race thing by putting one guy on the cover who's of a different race and then calling them both white waspy names and never once describing a characteristic which MIGHT clue me in. Pet peeve there. ;-)

  7. Oh, yeah, totally! (as we continue chatting like neighbors, while leaning on the virtual back fence, ha, ha!)

    To me, that sort of cover is trying to manipulate sales from readers who want multicultural elements while the story is in fact not really earning the readership with real ethnic characters. Essentially the cover is just hopping on a trend.

    The other thing that really frosts my cookies is when there actually IS a multicultural or interracial aspect in a romance (which I always like and look for) but the art department is so careless that they just give us the same two naked white male chests on the cover! I mean, really!

  8. I have been looking through your how-to sections, trying to decide on an eye color for a doctor who is "plump, pasty, blonde” She is the villain in my story and I am filling out a character description sheet so I have something to reference. I may or may not include it in the story but just in case I want her to have “eyes of a villain” BTW her name is Agatha S Simmers, MD. You might laugh at her initials. Also I have posted once or twice as anonymous.

  9. Hi, Anna! I'm glad this article could help. Those character description sheets are such a good idea. Even if the info doesn't make it into the story, you know it and it gives you a rich sense of character that comes across in the writing.

    I'm laughing at the initials, ha, ha! That kind of name definitely makes monogramming clothing / belongings completely out of the question!

  10. This is Anna(see post about Dr. Simmers) I think I have decided her eyes are a shade between brown and green that I might describe as “horse manure hazel” Oh the joys of properly describing colors.

  11. Hi, Anna! Horse manure hazel Ha, ha! Very fitting for the villain. :)

  12. Glad you like it, kinda fits in with her initials. But it's getting hard to come up with original descriptions when I have over 20 characters (only three are main) but I want to make sure everyone is ready should they get a chance in the spotlight later.

  13. I see what you mean. Twenty! That's a lot of characters.

  14. I am probably not going to actually use all of them but I have to have them ready so I remeber that they are there even if the reader never meets them.

  15. Hello! I would like to ask if what is the appropriate eye color for a doctor? I would want it too look like it's a gentle eyes but very mysterious. Thanks :)

  16. Hello, Anonymous! That is a very intriguing question. You could go with dark brown eyes with perhaps a starburst of gold rays around the pupil, and maybe long beautiful eyelashes. Dark eyes can look very mysterious, and brown eyes with some lighter color within can look gentle and reassuring. Hope this helps, and good luck with your writing! :)

  17. I had a character who had green eyes. I kept seeing the green in my head but not being able to describe what it was like. I finally got tired of guessing what kind of green it was, ended up googling the word green and looking through endless pictures until I found the right one. I ended up with "Eyes as green as a lovebird's feathers." It was a lot of work for something that seems so simple now.

  18. Hello, Anonymous! Where would we be without Google Images? I must use it several times every day. I really like the description you ended up with. I've always had a liking for that blue-green color on a peacock's feathers.

  19. I've been driven crazy by trying to describe a character's eyes.Thanks to this I finally settled on a descript.In the beginning her eyes are 'the violent,angry purple-gray of thunder clouds.' Later after she changes are eyes are 'the vibrant purple of a newly blossomed iris.'

  20. Very pretty! The irises are just starting to bloom out here and I've never seen such a gorgeous velvety purple. I'm glad the article helped. :)


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